Nonu back in, Sonny Bill out for Blues in crunch Jaguares match
2 March, 2019, 3:08 am
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Ma’a Nonu has replaced Sonny Bill Williams in the Auckland Blues’ midfield for the crunch away match against the Jaguares on Saturday as New Zealand’s Super Rugby strugglers continue to play musical chairs with the veteran All Black duo.
Nonu, dropped for the Blues’ 26-7 thrashing away to the Sharks in Durban, will start at inside centre, having played outside TJ Faiane in the season-opening loss at home to the Crusaders.
Faiane will remain at centre, having shifted back to make way for Williams, who was named in the reserves in the team released on Friday for the match in Buenos Aires.
Assistant coach Tana Umaga said the Blues would continue to revolve 36-year-old Nonu and 33-year-old Williams in and out of the side as part of player management.
“We stated from the start we’ll be managing those two, with Sonny coming back and taking a couple of knocks early on,” Umaga told local media on Friday.
“And with Ma’a, we’ve said we’ll manage those two and swap them in and out as we get through the season. It’s an opportunity for Ma’a and that was the plan all along.”
Rookie Tanielu Tele’a, who scored a try in an impressive debut off the bench against the Sharks, has been promoted to starting winger against the Argentines.
Otherwise, it’s all hands on deck for Leon MacDonald’s Blues, who will be red-lining their All Blacks’ playing minutes rather than resting them as they hunt desperately for their first win of the season.
New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams have been given strict instructions to limit the playing time of their All Blacks to keep them fresh for the global showpiece in Japan.
But the Blues can ill afford to hand out free breaks.
A 3-0 losing start would be a disastrous blow for the three-times champions’ hopes of ending a seven-year playoffs drought.
All Blacks winger Rieko Ioane and lock Patrick Tuipulotu will start but be limited to just over a half against the Jaguares, meaning a delicate balancing act for the Blues staff and the bench.